TCS Daily


The End of His Story

By Douglas Kern - March 7, 2006 12:00 AM

Francis Fukuyama's recent essay in the New York Times, "After Neoconservatism," isn't just a call for neo-realism in lieu of neoconservatism. It's a call for nothing in lieu of something. Admittedly, sometimes doing nothing is the best policy. But after 9/11, as we survey the threat of Islamic terror and rogue states, should we really settle for so little?

After excoriating the real and imagined sins of neoconservatism, Fukuyama offers the following plan for reforming our foreign policy:

1) "In the first instance, we need to demilitarize what we have been calling the global war on terrorism and shift to other types of policy instruments." Coincidentally, this step will enrich and empower foreign policy bureaucrats.

2) "The United States needs to come up with something better than 'coalitions of the willing' to legitimate its dealings with other countries." Such new bureaucracies will enrich and empower foreign policy bureaucrats.

3) Reform, reorganize, and improve the funding of entities such as "the State Department, U.S.A.I.D., the National Endowment for Democracy and the like." Oddly enough, this step will enrich and empower foreign policy bureaucrats.

Francis Fukuyama trusts foreign policy bureaucrats to save the world. Do you?

Global terrorism doesn't worry Fukuyama too much: "The most basic misjudgment was an overestimation of the threat facing the United States from radical Islamism. [...] But the intelligence community never took nearly as alarmist a view of the terrorist/W.M.D. threat as the war's supporters did." If terrorism and weapons of mass destruction are threats that we can ignore because our infallible "intelligence community" dismisses them with a wave of the hand, then Fukuyama is right: we have fought for nothing. But if the threat of Islamicist terrorism is real -- if, for example, a handful of Islamicist terrorists could slip into the country and hijack airplanes for the purpose of destroying buildings and wreaking havoc -- then the "basic misjudgment" is Fukuyama's, not the neoconservatives'.

Is it crazy to think that rogue states might shelter terrorists and sponsor unprovoked atrocities against Western countries, just because they have already done so? Is it absurd to think that Islamicist bad guys want to kill us en masse, just because they've said so repeatedly, launched savage attacks against us, and used every means at their disposal to obtain weapons of mass destruction?

Fukuyama's real problem with neoconservative foreign policy has little to do with America's popularity or international consensus, despite his protestations to the contrary. His problem lies in neoconservatism's tacit refutation of his pet theory. In his 1989 magnum opus, The End of History and the Last Man, Fukuyama argued that liberalism was the final ideology, to which reasonable people could find no superior alternative; history would henceforth consist of individuals and nations struggling to endure the burdens that liberalism places on the human soul. By contrast, neoconservative foreign policy assumes that history is not at an end; that irrationalism and depravity can win anywhere, and may perhaps win everywhere. Neoconservatism demands that righteous nations resist the depredations of evil regimes, by force if necessary and prudent, in order to accelerate the growth of freedom and international security. No disembodied force of History will do our work for us; the world's future is not a straight line pointed at a certain outcome, but rather a jagged and irregular line - the line between good and evil that runs through every human heart. You might think that the events of the last seventeen years would convince nearly anyone that the human heart still has the last word over History. But Fukuyama will not surrender his cherished beliefs without a fight.

He writes: "'The End of History,' in other words, presented a kind of Marxist-Hegelian argument for the existence of a long-term process of social evolution, but one that terminates in liberal democracy rather than communism. In the formulation of the scholar Ken Jowitt, the neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan was, by contrast, Leninist; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States."

So it's "Leninist" to apply power and will to achieve liberal democracy ahead of History's schedule. Presumably it was also "Leninist" to apply power and will toward making the Soviet Union fall ahead of schedule. In fairness, I believe that Communism was destined to collapse under the weight of its wickedness and economic ineptitude -- given enough time. But the resolve of the West determined how much of the world Communism could defile on its way down -- and how many people had to die in gulags while waiting for History to arrive. If it was "Leninist" to apply power and will toward expediting the rendezvous of the Evil Empire with the dustbin of History, then sign me up for Leninism.

The same analysis applies to any of America's other wars. Nazism was untenable as a political theory, but who regrets the "Leninism" of applying power and will to throttle Nazism in its crib? The South would have abandoned slavery if left alone for a few generations, but were we Yankees insufferably "Leninist" when we sent the Union armies to give History a little kick in the butt? It's true that good intentions don't justify every war, but come on: is every righteous application of military force "Leninist?"

Fukuyama doesn't resent neoconservatism's purported militarism because of his concern for victims of war, or America's international standing, or petty gripes about pre-war planning, or any other red herrings. He resents neoconservative military action because it works too well. Unlike handouts to foreign policy bureaucrats, military action actually deposes totalitarian regimes and allows democratic societies to come into being -- not as theoretical constructs, but as actual existing states, however imperfect, however distant from the liberal ideal. Fukuyama may love the idea of democracy, but he doesn't love the untidy, unsatisfying realities of flawed, fumbling democracies in their toddler years. To the extent that military action engenders such puling squalls of unruly young democracies, he opposes it.

Fukuyama's critique fails most completely on the problem of tyranny. "By definition," he writes, "outsiders can't 'impose' democracy on a country that doesn't want it; demand for democracy and reform must be domestic. Democracy promotion is therefore a long-term and opportunistic process that has to await the gradual ripening of political and economic conditions to be effective." Ignore the obvious counter-examples of post-WWII Germany and Japan for a moment. Fukuyama's rejection of military action follows necessarily from his belief that demand for democracy must be domestic. If we can create new democracies only through careful, unhurried maneuvering, then the abrupt changes that follow in the 82nd Airborne's wake are unhelpful at best and uselessly destructive at worst. But by definition, tyrannies and rogue nations do not allow political and economic conditions to "ripen" into the ideal circumstances for a liberal democracy. If we restrain our foreign policy actions to the subtle and gradual, we will foment freedom in those nations least in need of our help, even as we condemn those nations whose corrupt leaders have rendered them impervious to long-term, opportunistic processes. Subtlety is dandy for building democracy in the Taiwans and Chiles of the world. How well does it work for the Irans and North Koreas of the world? What can neo-realism tell us about creating democracy in places where foreign policy bureaucrats are as likely to be eaten as feted?

Admittedly, neoconservatism has no easy or satisfying answer to the threat of democratically-elected tyrants. The transition from oppression to responsibility is hard for anyone to make, let alone for an entire society to make. Brand-new voters may fall prey to the old enemies of democratic discourse: demagoguery and factionalism. We can indulge failures of civic virtue as necessary lessons in the consequences of irresponsible voting -- but only up to a point. Can we warmly embrace the ideal of democracy if free elections give to Islamicist thugs control of entire nations -- with all the resources, weapons, legitimacy, and scientific prowess entailed in such control?

That's a hard question. But Fukuyama offers no answer. Support democracy, he tells us, but not to the point that such support is expensive, or dangerous, or premature, or upsetting to other nations, or irritating to potential terrorists, or empowering to potential enemies, or overly "Leninist" in its zeal to loose the chains of the slave grinding at the mill. Is it any wonder, then, that Fukuyama's policy prescription is to take two nothings and call him in the morning? If History is inevitable, if no threat menaces us, and if energetic foreign action puts us on a par with Lenin, then doing nothing looks pretty good indeed. Neoconservatism rejects all three of those premises, proposing instead an active and, yes, aggressive strategy for building liberal democracies. Fukuyama's neo-realism offers only the slender hope that History will vanquish international wrongdoers; that determinism will succeed when the nerve of bureaucrats fails. But waiting for the vicissitudes of History to smite your enemies is like Waiting for Godot: you talk and you talk and you talk, and then the curtain fails.

Francis Fukuyama is still waiting for his Godot. He sits patiently at the station, waiting for the End of History to arrive; it never does, and never will. He asks us to wait with him; neoconservatism leaves, and beckons us to follow. The station is comfortable and familiar, but a commotion can be heard outside, and the fire alarm is starting to ring. It's time to go after neoconservatism.

The author is a lawyer and TCS contributing writer.

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23 Comments

The end of history approaches
"...if, for example, a handful of Islamicist terrorists could slip into the country and hijack airplanes for the purpose of destroying buildings and wreaking havoc -- then the "basic misjudgment" is Fukuyama's, not the neoconservatives'."

What went wrong, of course, was that the fossilized bureaucracy permeating the FBI was unable to sound an alarm within its own organization, when several of its members found known Al Qaeda members in this country taking flying lessons. They were not tracked and stopped when it was found that all had converged on the Boston airport one morning. That's all in the commission report.

Had Zach Moussawi done a good citizen's duty and reported the existence of the plot to that FBI, his report would have been taken and carefully filed away, for further review at some point in the future.

History may be ending some point in the near future. And we will have the neocons to thank for its unravelling. Check out this very interesting prognostication from the not very leftist folks at Atlantic Magazine:

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200507/fallows

Dyspeptic sloganeering
I was particularly struck by this formulation:

"Francis Fukuyama trusts foreign policy bureaucrats to save the world. Do you?"

Dislike of Foggy Bottom is an old GOP tradition, but this is totally off the deep end. What's the alternative? Trusting military bureaucrats to save the world? Trusting religious bureaucrats to save the world? Trusting corporate bureaucrats to save the world?

Foreign policy is implemented, in any government, by "foreign policy bureacrats," also know as diplomats and/or foreign service professionals. Trying to discredit the whole profession by pasting on the word "bureaucrat" is pure sloganeering

very funny
Fukuyama has indeed put himself in a funny position, and I enjoyed your take on it.

Re: "foreign policy bureaucrats" that people have complained here. I think we shouldn't dismiss the beraucrats, simply because we are pro limited govt. On contrary, we should pay more attention to what they do, becuase they can cause more harm than just wasting our tax money - and also, they can do good.

For example, I think the way SD supports democracy in countries such as Belarus, where I am from, is in some ways counter-productive. What we need to give people who work in the govt is not dismissive name-calling, but constructive sriticism. We can no longer afford the position of saying "We don't trust you, get lost" to our bureaucrats. We do need their help as well as of our military, and viewing them as just a nuisance won't work.

Means and ends: what what armies, with what lies?
The other element of this bilious critique is its utter disregard of real world issues of resources and priorities.

Taking out one unpleasant dictator who posed no threat (we now know) to the US, nor even one to his neighbors cost us the total immobilization of our readily deployable military, nearly a quarter trillion dollars, alienation from our allies and the rest of the world, and no exit. Is this really supposed to be the glowing alternative to "foreign policy bureaucrats" who try to accomplish the same foreign policy objectives non-unilaterally?

Are the American people really ready for an open-ended crusade against all "evil" -- as defined by neocons in the world. Sure, we supported the civil war (the South attacked, after being blocked on the expansion of slavery) and Hitler (who declared war after Japan's attack).
And North Korea, who we resisted as part of the UN after they attacked.

But Iraq did not attack us. How many places are we going to attack because neocons think they are 'evil?'

Careful
I have no more sympathy than you do for the invasion of Iraq, but you need to be sure of your facts with respect to historic analogues. Iraq may not have been a danger to the U.S., but it was certainly a danger to its neighbors; remember that small affair, the 10 year Iran-Iraq war that began with an Iraqi invasion. Also, the South didn't attack the North; it attempted to secede, and the Union invaded.

Finally, let's not use World War 2 as a good example of any kind of American foreign policy. The U.S. stood aside for more than two years, letting others do all the fighting and dying. The administration of the day had to virtually subvert U.S. law to provide military assistance to the British prior to the passage of Lend-Lease.

It's really a question of extremes. For most of its history, the U.S. followed a policy of isolationism and colonial self interest. World War 2 showed that to be bankrupt and ultimately self defeating. With the current crop of neocons, the pendulum swung too far, and now we have intervention driven on ideological grounds.

So, in answer to your question, Iraq is it for places to be attacked for this generation, just as Vietnam was it for the previous one. Quite simply, the U.S. doesn't have the ruthlessness to put an end to the conflict using the methods which could succeed. Hence, it will fail. What Iraq is doing more than anything is demonstrating the severe limits of U.S. military power. If it can't even pacify one relatively small, relatively unimportant country, how seriously can anyone take the U.S. claim to be a "global policeman"?

So we agree
with some differences.

> Iraq may not have been a danger to the U.S., but it was certainly a danger to its neighbors; remember that small affair, the 10 year Iran-Iraq war that began with an Iraqi invasion.

That war was encouraged by the U.S., which was worried about the threat of Iranian Islamic extremism. Encouraged to the point that Donald Rumsfeld went to Bagdada when the Iranians looked to be winning and arranged some special goodies, including satellite intelligence that Saddam used to target gas attacks. Post Gulf War (justified intervenion, in my opinion) Iraq was no credible threat to anyone.

re: WWII: I wasn't the one to bring it up. Kern did. I was only differentiating it from wars of choice.

>Also, the South didn't attack the North; it attempted to secede, and the Union invaded.

After the South fired on Ft.Sumter, initiating hostilities.

>With the current crop of neocons, the pendulum swung too far, and now we have intervention driven on ideological grounds.

agreed.

>Quite simply, the U.S. doesn't have the ruthlessness to put an end to the conflict using the methods which could succeed.

I don't think it's a question of ruthlessness. In Afghanistan, the Russians were certainly not short of ruthlessness. They still lost.

>If it can't even pacify one relatively small, relatively unimportant country, how seriously can anyone take the U.S. claim to be a "global policeman"?

I agree 100 percent. All the war is doing is dramatically demonostrating American paper-tigerness to the world. The big winner in Iraq is, as many have pointed out, axis of evil Iran.

Just a few bits left
Fort Sumter? Well all the South was doing was in their eyes expelling an occupying force from their territory in one of their states. It was not an invasion with aggressive intent of a Northern State. The invasion was McDowell's into Virginia, ending in low comedy at 1st Manassas.

Iraq, well yes, the U.S. encouraged it, but you can't make bricks without straw. Hussein was expansionist, and the foolishness of the U.S. was to allow it expression without understanding whom they were dealing with. To my way of thinking, the perpetrator is more relevant than those who give aid, because he's going to do it anyway sooner or later.

Ruthlessness? Yes, it can win and it's very simple; all the U.S. has to do is what the British successfully did to win the Boer War and the Malaya war. Namely, concentrate and quarantine the entire population, right down to the cats and dogs, that harbors the insurgents. It's brutal and devastating and works every time. The alternate, cheaper method to avoid using your own military is to have the local majority group massacre wholesale the minority group harboring the insurgents. That one has a rather high failure rate, i.e. Rwanda in the 1990s.

Global policeman? You can't occupy a country with cruise missiles, only with soldiers on the ground. If the U.S. has barely enough or not enough for Iraq, how does it propose to deal with Iran? Rent-a-cops?

What it adds up to for me is that WW2 showed the hypocrisy of isolationism. However, there are necessary interventions and invasions, such as Afghanistan, and stupid ones such as Iraq. Do I regret the ousting of S. Hussein? Hardly, that was a very good thing indeed, but the U.S. is going to pay a severe price for it.

sort of
>Well all the South was doing was in their eyes expelling an occupying force from their territory in one of their states.

That was in their eyes. They fired the first shots was the bottom line.

Regarding Iraq, the bottom line remains that it was not a threat either to its neighbors or the US in 2003.

Regardng ruthlessness: it won in Malaya because the British were able to cut off supplies to the insurgents. Same thing happened in Greece, for the same reason. It didn't happen in Afghanistan, despite Soviet ruthlessness, and it didn't happen in Vietnam, despite more bombs delivered than on Germany and Japan combined in WWII.

In Iraq, we don't have enough troops on the scene to even try this. The estimate of Gen Shinoseki -- the one that got him fired -- is probably on the low side.

However, again:

>f the U.S. has barely enough or not enough for Iraq, how does it propose to deal with Iran? Rent-a-cops?

Could not agree with you more.

>o I regret the ousting of S. Hussein? Hardly, that was a very good thing indeed, but the U.S. is going to pay a severe price for it.

Again, agreement. I'm not sorry for Saddam; I'm sorry for what this doing to my country.

Well
The key in Malaya was the isolation of the Chinese ethnic minority from the guerrillas. Quarantine of the urban population was the key here, because that's how the insurgency derived money and recruits. It was called a Communist movement, but it was really an ethnic struggle against the dominant Malays. Bombs from aircraft were entirely unimportant to the method and its result, which shows how thoroughly the U.S. failed to apply any of this in Vietnam.

The Soviets were ruthless certainly, but stupid. Search and destroy missions don't get rid of guerrillas, population containment does that. The Soviets didn't have near enough troops for the task, because they'd alienated so many Afghanis that it meant most of the country. France had exactly the same problem in Spain in the early 1800s. Plenty of destruction and killing but no success in limiting guerrilla access to a population base. Ruthlessness has to be intelligent to succeed.

The U.S. does have experience with this; it was pursued very effectively in getting rid of the plains Indians. Perhaps that experience was sufficiently brutal that, to its credit, the U.S. has never really pursued such policies ever since.

Bottom line is number of troops
And we don't have enough.

>The U.S. does have experience with this; it was pursued very effectively in getting rid of the plains Indians

hardly applicable: there were not very many of them to begin with, and fewer each year because of infectious disease, which was more effective than any military action.

That's right
There aren't enough. The U.S. army is built to fight and defeat other armies, not to function as a million-plus strength police force. So the U.S. has to make do with half measures such as using proxies, "Vietnamization" etc. Problem is the proxies usually have or soon get their own political agendas.

Re. the Indians, it is applicable, because it's the same basic strategy. Side effects such as infectious disease are that much more destructive with a contained, confined population. Because there weren't that many of them, it didn't take an army of millions to round them up, but that's what happened; they call them reservations. The smaller the target population, the quicker and easier and cheaper (on the occupiers) the concentration program is. When you read Dee Brown's book you realize that this is the real activity that is going on in the West; the military maneuvers and battles are almost incidental to the process.

Dangerous?
Colin, I think maybe you haven't fully thought this one through. You say "Iraq may not have been a danger to the U.S., but it was certainly a danger to its neighbors; remember that small affair, the 10 year Iran-Iraq war that began with an Iraqi invasion."

But when Iraq started the war with Iran, they knew they were our client, and that we would support them. And in 1991, when they invaded Kuwait, they thought they were still our client. Ambiguous assurance from April Glaspie gave Saddam what was apparently a misimpression.

After that it became obvious that if they were to merely look crosseyed at their own Kurds The Americans would be back to bomb them to rubble. Saddam was under no illusion as to America's intent-- or its ability to pound his armies to dust.

Where, then, was his capability to do harm on the international stage?

Yes he was
the client of the U.S. It really doesn't matter though, because if the U.S. wasn't his backer someone else would be, namely the Soviet Union. In either case, he was going to carry out his assault on Iran, not because the U.S. wanted him to but because he wanted to. Too often the problem is that the U.S. develops a client relationship and thinks that this means that the U.S. is calling the shots. All too often, it's the reverse.

As for post-1991, the U.S. demonstrated nothing but weakness. Had it been Saddam on the winning side, he would have finished off the losing government in Bagdad in a heartbeat, but Bush the First stopped well short and sold out the civil war which flared up. The U.S. failed repeatedly over the 1990s to respond significantly to terrorist activity overtly directed against the U.S. So, he misread the signals and assumed that the U.S. was weak and could be pushed.

In short, the fact that Hussein was a U.S. client doesn't in any way excuse his responsibility for launching two aggressive wars of conquest. Given time and breathing room, it is not unreasonable to suppose that he could have continued to make mischief with his neighbors. He certainly had the intent.

So much effort for so little affect
I rebutted Michael McClellans’ attack on Fukuyama’s NYTimes article the other day. Now Douglas Kern has launched his. There is a key difference between the approaches they took. I felt McClellan, at best, ignored the heart of Fukuyama’s argument, which was the inability of the neoconservatives to apply their own hard-headed rationality on the issue of Iraq and foreign policy. Kern, apparently, has decided to be more confrontational. And in doing so fails miserably.

Rather than rely on reason and intellect, Kern decides that nothing would be as effective as a full-throated screed. And nothing enables a polemicist to create straw men and red herrings like today’s word processing software. Unfortunately, technology also allows anyone with a decent internet connection to access Fukuyama’s text; which puts Kern in a rather awkward position.

I would imagine that Kern, when confronted with what Fukuyama really wrote, versus what was manufactured somewhere between Kern’s fevered imagination and his keyboard, must feel sort of like the man who was caught in bed with another woman by his wife. There’s not much he can say except: “Who you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”

No don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good screed as much as the next person. But there’s an important qualifier in that statement: good. To understand why Kern fails miserably just look at his first major attack:

“After excoriating the real and imagined sins of neoconservatism, Fukuyama offers the following plan for reforming our foreign policy:
1) "In the first instance, we need to demilitarize what we have been calling the global war on terrorism and shift to other types of policy instruments." Coincidentally, this step will enrich and empower foreign policy bureaucrats.
2) "The United States needs to come up with something better than 'coalitions of the willing' to legitimate its dealings with other countries." Such new bureaucracies will enrich and empower foreign policy bureaucrats.
3) Reform, reorganize, and improve the funding of entities such as "the State Department, U.S.A.I.D., the National Endowment for Democracy and the like." Oddly enough, this step will enrich and empower foreign policy bureaucrats.
Francis Fukuyama trusts foreign policy bureaucrats to save the world. Do you?”

In reality of course, Fukuyama’s “plan” has nothing to do with saving the world. It has, instead, to do with identifying a more robust and effective strategy at combating Islamo-fascism than just sending in the Marines. He is not arguing an either-or choice, but rather a both-and.

Here is where Kern decides not to let facts get in the way of his screed. He neatly slices away a crucial phrase that establishes the both-and approach. Here is the complete quote:

“In the first instance, we need to demilitarize what we have been calling the global war on terrorism and shift to other types of policy instruments. We are fighting hot counterinsurgency wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and against the international jihadist movement, wars in which we need to prevail. But "war" is the wrong metaphor for the broader struggle, since wars are fought at full intensity and have clear beginnings and endings. Meeting the jihadist challenge is more of a "long, twilight struggle" whose core is not a military campaign but a political contest for the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims around the world.”

Fukuyama recognizes the ned to fight and win both “hot” and “cold” wars. And fighting these different battles requires matching the right weapon to the task. Now, perhaps all Kerns thinks that the United States has in its arsenal of democracy is the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Of course, the world is more complex than that, but simple minds sometimes can only view things through simple lenses. But Kern should remember the old saying about the man who only had a hammer: everything looks like a nail.

Kern continued his simplistic editing with Fukuyama’s comment about “coalitions of the willing”. Kern edited it to create the appearance of a smear against Bush when none existed. Here’s what Fukuyama really said:

“The United States needs to come up with something better than "coalitions of the willing" to legitimate its dealings with other countries. The world today lacks effective international institutions that can confer legitimacy on collective action; creating new organizations that will better balance the dual requirements of legitimacy and effectiveness will be the primary task for the coming generation. As a result of more than 200 years of political evolution, we have a relatively good understanding of how to create institutions that are rulebound, accountable and reasonably effective in the vertical silos we call states. What we do not have are adequate mechanisms of horizontal accountability among states.

The conservative critique of the United Nations is all too cogent: while useful for certain peacekeeping and nation-building operations, the United Nations lacks both democratic legitimacy and effectiveness in dealing with serious security issues. The solution is not to strengthen a single global body, but rather to promote what has been emerging in any event, a "multi-multilateral world" of overlapping and occasionally competing international institutions that are organized on regional or functional lines. Kosovo in 1999 was a model: when the Russian veto prevented the Security Council from acting, the United States and its NATO allies simply shifted the venue to NATO, where the Russians could not block action.”

While Kern would have his reader believe the simple smear he created through “cutting and pasting”; the internet allows a reader to access the full text. Thus we see that Fukuyama clearly states that the key problem with the “foreign policy bureaucrats” Kern so loves to bash…is that there are no effective international institutions with the authority to confer legitimacy on American actions.

Now Kern could argue that the US, as global hegemon, does not need to seek international approval for its actions. Or he could have argued that Fukuyama is wrong about the UN, that it is fully capable of dealing with serious security issues. But again he didn’t. After all why let reason and serious debate get in the way of building a nice straw man to knock down.

Finally, Kern really gets out the scissors and cuts out just a few words to build his case. Again, thanks to the power of the internet, here’s the complete sentence:

“If we are serious about the good governance agenda, we have to shift our focus to the reform, reorganization and proper financing of those institutions of the United States government that actually promote democracy, development and the rule of law around the world, organizations like the State Department, U.S.A.I.D., the National Endowment for Democracy and the like.”

And what is the “good governance agenda” that Fukuyama refers to? It’s the building of stable, working democratic institutions after the dictators have been swept away. Now, perhaps Kern feels that building and developing the institutions and habits of good governance is better left to 82nd Airborne. But then he has to explain and defend his claim. And it’s so much easier, and enjoyable, to just make something up.

The sad part is that Kern could have chosen to argue that he disagrees about the nature of struggle with Islamo-fascism. That’s legitimate; and a point that is open for serious consideration. But Kern instead opts for a cheap shot, and an easily rebuffed weak cheap shot at that.

I don’t

Irationalism has already won in at least one place
"By contrast, neoconservative foreign policy assumes that history is not at an end; that irrationalism and depravity can win anywhere, and may perhaps win everywhere."

I see. So the *****, who controlled one of the most powerful countries in the world, didn't win everywhere. And the communists, who countrolled multiple very powerful countries, didn't win everywhere.

But a bunch of nuts who don't control even one powerful country, are going to win everywhere.

Well, I guess we know at least one place irrationalism has already won.

Brilliant analysis
Oh my god! With this kind of attitude you should be in the State Department. Why don't we just make Iran our client, so we don't have to worry about their nuclear program any more?

Our problem, one of them anyway, is that we make these client states out of the worst of the worst human rights offenders, then we're so embarrassed later when they don't really turn out to have been our friends. This kind of thinking should be in eternal disgrace by now.

Back in 1980 we were arming and training the predecessors to the Taliban and Al Qaeda in that great training ground, Afghanistan. Reagan actually had as much of a hand in creating these fighting forces as did Mullah Omar or Osama. Not to mention all the ill will we've brought upon ourselves in so many countries by facilitating their being kept from democracy for so many decades. Just by way of example, Ferdinand Marcos, Rafael Trujillo and Manuel Noriega.

So Saddam was our guy. And he confidently started two wars. Then he got whacked hard. There was then a zero, repeat zero, chance that he would start any more without first clearing it with the US.

Speaking of the post-Gulf War environment, you say " The U.S. failed repeatedly over the 1990s to respond significantly to terrorist activity overtly directed against the U.S. So, he misread the signals and assumed that the U.S. was weak and could be pushed."

Can you back this fantasy up with anything from the real world? Between the overflights on Iraqi territory and the sanctions program, he had very little play of any sort. His WMD programs appear to have ceased by 1995, possibly earlier. The guy had nothing. The word for this is "contained".

Obviously wasted effort
Did you even try to understand what I was writing? Did at any point in my post I indicate that the U.S. had been following intelligent foreign policy through the 80s and 90s? No, you just assumed.

Of course the business of creating client states based on local strongmen was foolish, and you just have to look at Henry Kissinger's gallery of ex-dictators for evidence. What I was trying to get across was that the removal of Hussein was a logical and perhaps even necessary outgrowth of what the U.S. had been doing for decades. The reason the policy was foolish is too many Americans, both left and right, wander around aimlessly imagining that "he's our guy". He's never "our guy" because "he" has aims and ambitions of his own, and is perfectly capable of finding another backer once the heat is off or Americans lose interest, which happens all too frequently. The more importance the U.S. vests in a client relationship, the greater it can be held hostage to actions not in the long term interest of the U.S.

You also missed my point; dictators like Hussein can plan for the long haul. The U.S. policy planning cycle lasts little more than two years, and everyone outside the U.S. knows this. The absurdity of American politics is that a stained blue dress can attract more attention by far than a massacre of hundreds of thousands a continent away.

So American inattention and laxity created Hussein, at least according to your thesis. Fine, the U.S. had to clean up the mess that it had inflicted on Iraq's neighbors. Containment isn't cleanup, disposal is.

Kern missed a key point
when he ignored one of Fukuyama's observations about neoconservatism. I thought his observation about the neos forgetting their skepticism about social engineering was right on the mark. But if you want to discredit a writer, you take cheap shots rather than undertake any consideration of the work as a whole.

Client State?
For all this talk that Iraq was America's client state, could someone tell me why Iraq was equipped with Soviet-bloc tanks, armored personnel carriers, aircraft, anti-aircraft missles, assault weapons, sidearms, etc.
The myth of American military support of Iraq is a complete myth.

Earlier period
The Soviet military equipment dated from the late 60s and early 70s when Iraq was indeed supplied militarily by the
Soviet Union. Like its other Middle East clients, the Soviets insisted on full payment for the arms being supplied. Largely the Soviet influence came to an end before the period being discussed, in part as a result of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Soviet influence in Iraq faded as rapidly as it did in Egypt, post Yom Kippur War.

Really?
What about the T-72s and T-72 upgrades?
And their MIG Force (along with French weapons)?
Used them in the Iran-Iraq war in the 80s, correct?

Yes,
As I said, the Soviet Union made their client states pay cash for their weapons. There were still some purchases by Iraq, because they were cheap, but this was a far different situation than had prevailed pre-1973.

A clarification
Colin, my point was that a person like Saddam is the epitome of a survivor. No one would know better than he the survival value of not invading any more neighbors (or even being found to be assisting terrorists under the table) after his costly miscalculation of 1991. WMD programs had been dismantled and he was even compliant with the flyover program until 1998, when self respect caused him to start shooting at our overflights.

This little contretemps was a cat and mouse game, played by both sides. I don't think we can use it as any kind of evidence Saddam was unilaterally out of compliance with the terms of the deal.

I guess what I'm saying is it's impossible for me to imagine someone thinking Saddam might be a threat to anyone. That was over. The guy all but had an ankle bracelet on. He was contained, and knew he would lose his job if he even thought about crossing any lines with the US.

Re your last paragraph, no, I neither said nor think that American laxity "created" Saddam. If we had ever had any responsibility in that mess, it would have been to finish the job in 1991, so all those Shiite rebels would not have died so horribly. This is not in any way an endorsement of beginning a new job in 2003.

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